INTERVIEW: Sean Meyers of Gates To The Morning

SEAN MEYERS (Gates To The Morning) Thank you for being on Direnotes, care to let readers know a bit about yourself?

Thanks for having us! Gates to the Morning was a project I started back in about 2008. It was completely a one man project that played symphonic second wave black metal in the vein of Emperor, Enslaved, Borknagar and Dimmu Borgir, etc. I was half way through the process of recording this self-made album in my home studio and all the files somehow got corrupted. I had to give up on the project because I was going into school for Jazz performance and that took up all my focus. Fast forward to late 2016 and I started writing riffs again and it was actually just one riff in particular that made me realize I had to finally record an album of my own.

So, what is the story behind Return to Earth? How did the project come together?

This continues from the first question. I wrote the riff for the title track “Return To Earth” and fell in love with that really simple riff. It was then that I decided I needed to start writing more material. A few weeks later I had the day off from work, and it was super cold outside. My dog and I both love the cold so I spent a lot of time running around with her outside. In between being playing with my dog outside I would go back inside and write riffs, and things were just flowing. That process continued all day and I wrote about half of the album in that one day. The rest followed over the course of the next year or so and then I decided to go into the studio. That is when the band started to form because I knew I wanted other people to play on the record, friends of mine that I had been playing music with for years. I never intended on this being anything more than a studio project but some of the guys I had on the record expressed interest in doing a live band, and it just grew from there. 

What was the first you've ever seen, how would you say it affected The Gates to the Morning’s current sound?

The first concert I saw was Eric Clapton at Madison Square Garden and Steve Gadd was drumming. I grew up on Eric Clapton and I had just started playing the drums, so to get to see Steve Gadd live in concert was very inspiring. The first metal concert I ever went to was Napalm Death, Misery Index, Cattle Decapitation and Goatwhore. Vader was also supposed to play but they had to back out so a band called Vicious Circle filled in. What a lineup! I was 14 and my Dad drove me into BB Kings in times square to see the show. He’s not a metalhead but he thought Goatwhore sounded pretty good, haha! (I love Goatwhore’s first album “Eclipse of Ages Into Black) I also bought the Misery Index E.P. “Dissent” which was VERY inspiring for me, especially the drumming. That was my first metal concert and it kind of foreshadowed things because about 3 years later I was able to play at BB Kings opening up for Possessed! The band I was in at the time is essentially the same line up as Gates To the Morning, just over a decade later.

Would you say your songwriting process is different than any other projects/bands you've been part of?

Yes because I am primarily a drummer, and I am used to just being that, “the drummer.” This time I was in full creative control of absolutely everything, at least at first. So I would write these tunes on guitar and arrange them. Then I basically practiced the drums to the demos of the songs before going into the studio. When I went into the studio to track the drums there was really just the barebones of all the arrangements. Only a few leads had been written, there was basically no keyboards or vocals. The ideas for the keyboards and the vocals came well after the drums were laid down. I really didn’t know what this project would turn into or become when I went into the studio, I just knew I had to make an album, for my own sanity. Some of the guitar leads I wrote were written on the fly in the studio or the night before going into the studio. This thing just kept developing on its own over time and didn’t stop until the engineer, Kevin Antreassian (formerly of the Dillinger Escape Plan) told me, “Dude, it’s done.” I was start to get overly obsessive and he was able to cut me off at just the right time.

Did you face any difficulties when it came to songwriting?

No, but yes. Abundance was the first difficulty, I had to cut myself off right before I went into the studio. I just kept writing and writing. I thought the album was done and then I wrote the song “Two Winters” and decided that had to be on the album and finally said “that’s it, no more." The upside of this is I had enough material to start the follow-up album which is already coming along in the writing process pretty quickly.

Also, I had never sang before, so that was interesting. I really still only consider myself a drummer. I had never tracked anything other than drums in the studio before this, so recording vocals, guitars and keyboards was all very new to me. There was a huge learning curve and dive into the unknown, and ultimately it was rewarding. I am glad I took the chance and dove into the deep end. I am aware now of how I can develop all of my skills, especially with vocals and guitars, so I am looking forward to taking what I have learned from this experience into the next album.

How did you come to incorporate jazz elements into your music?

I graduated with a degree in Jazz performance on drum set from Montclair State University in 2014, so Jazz is just in my vocabulary. I don’t think there are any parts on the album that are straight ahead Jazz, but there are subtle hints of it and it is kind of a mindset I bring to all of my music, especially when we play live. I think it is important to be spontaneous and have some level of improvisation in the live setting, and even on the recordings. I plan to incorporate more jazz elements going forward, as long as it is in an authentic and organic way and not forced. It is more of a mindset than anything, I want to keep human interaction prominent in the music. Even in the studio, the drums were laid down first, but some of Mark Glaser’s guitar solos on the album played off of what I did on the drums, so even though we did things track by track in the studio, there was still this level of interaction and improvisation in the music.

What would you say was the greatest moment in The Gates to the Morning’s history thus far?

I think that moment is yet to come, because we are such a new band, but releasing this album will be a big moment for me personally. It really has been over a decade in the making. That may be a little misleading because the band was not developed and essentially inactive for a long period of time, but it had been something that needed to happen for me personally. I went into the studio with the intent of just creating an album for myself and my friends to hear. I just wanted to create something. As things developed I decided to take it further and further, because in all honesty I had higher aspirations for this project than I initially admitted to myself.

On the other hand, has there been any difficulties?

The difficulties have already been pretty well documented in the other questions, being half way through an album and losing it, and having to abandon the project all together. However some of the more recent difficulties have been the promotion aspect. Two years ago I didn’t even have a facebook, now all of the sudden I am promoting this album through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I am trying to network as much as possible. I have always had the aspirations of music taking me places. My goal has been to travel the world playing music, and this is my vehicle. In order to actualize that I have to do more than just play music, and that part was very frustrating for me. In my mind I always thought, "if the music is good everything else will fall into place.” Well, I have learned that is not true, so I have been working hard to promote this music. Fortunately I ran into two of the best people to help me with all this in Curtis Dewar and Matt Bacon. Those guys have singlehandedly taught me how to navigate social media and the music world as it is and get my name out there, and I am very grateful for that.

Some of your pet peeves when it comes to today’s metal scene?

I would say as I mentioned the fact that it is not all about the music, that it requires so much more than just being a musician. If it were up to me I would just practice all of my instruments all day. Instead I spend so much time on social media and the computer, but in all honesty, it has been very rewarding. I have met so many great people and I am realizing that there is a bigger picture to all of this, and it is about human connection and interaction. So in a way, I can’t really complain about that aspect. Still, I am addicted to the practice room. I can sit and practice and write music all day when I have the time.

My true pet peeve has always been the live sound at metal shows. It’s so sad when you go to see a great band and everything is just overly loud and muddy. Even for the heaviest bands I still want clarity in the mix. It is sad to see, especially at local shows, when the drummer is doing some crazy shit and working his ass off, and you can’t even hear what he is doing.

What would you say the best thing about the scene is?

The community. I have been met some great people through the metal scene, local and abroad. The metal community can actually be one of the most open-minded and eclectic groups of people. I am grateful for so many of the people I have met through the metal community.

What do you do in your downtime?

Music is a huge part of my life, so music takes up a lot of my time. I practice and teach yoga and meditation regularly. I am very dedicated to that practice as it has quite honestly kept me alive. I also teach music a lot, and that is a big part of my life. Being a music teacher is about so much more than just the music, especially when you are working with kids and young adults. It gives me a higher sense of purpose. Other than that I am a pretty big sports fan. I love watching football, hockey and baseball. I do a lot of reading on a myriad of subjects, whether it be fiction such as Tolkien or doing research on music, or shamanic and esoteric practices. Somebody just loaned me a book on Stewart Copeland, one of my favorite drummers/musicians, so that is next on my reading list.

And, what is the least metal thing someone could catch the band listening to?

A LOT of stuff. Metal really makes up a relatively small portion of what I listen to. I was listening to Enya last night, I love Enya. Obviously I love all types of Jazz, especially hard-bop. I love classical music, especially Chopin and his nocturnes. I love any music that is reminiscent of the 90’s, I am in love with that time period. I love good pop music too. I think George Michael is great for example. The band as a whole is VERY eclectic. I can’t speak for all of the members but I know we all have a wide variety of tastes, that is for sure.

What can listeners expect in the future from The Gates of the Morning?

We are hitting the east coast hard in July with 4 shows throughout Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Northern New Jersey. We will then resume playing some more shows along the north east coast in the fall and the next album is already taking form, which I am very excited about. We are excited about some of the bands we are playing with this summer such as Eneferens, Windfaerer, Frost Giant, Ghostbound, Last Legion, and a lot of other great bands. The shows we have lined up are going to be absolute rippers.

Thanks for taking the time to answer some of my questions!
Thank you for having us! Ill drop our website here and from there you can find all of our social media and band camps links. Cheers!